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Russellville Park Resident Inspires Academy Award-Winning Documentary

Russellville Park Resident Inspires Academy Award Winning Documentary

Alissa Sauer

Russellville Park will be hosting a private screening of the documentary “Scared Straight” on Monday, April 3, 2023, at 2:30 pm! Watch the movie with the man who inspired the documentary as a young prison warden in New Jersey.

When Russellville Park resident Bob Hatrak became the youngest warden of New Jersey’s Rahway State Prison in 1974, he had no idea he would win several Emmy Awards and an Academy Award. He did not know that he would change several lives and then meet one of them face-to-face in his golden years, but that is exactly what happened.

As a 34-year-old prison warden, Bob started several groups to engage inmates and positively impact their lives. From singing groups known as “The Escorts” to “Lifers,” inmates were encouraged to make positive choices to bring about change in their own lives and the lives of others. The “Lifers” group was composed of inmates serving the longest sentences. They met regularly with at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 16, speaking with them frankly about how their life choices led them to prison and warning them to start making better decisions that could change the trajectory of their lives.

This group and their work inspired the documentary “Scared Straight.” One of the teens who saw the documentary was none other than Gordan Vavages, Russellville Park’s night shift front desk attendant. He told Bob, “You saved my life!”

Join Russellville Park to view “Scared Straight” with Bob and Gordon on Monday, April 3, 2023, at 2:30 pm and learn about the story of the Lifers. Want to learn more? Co-authors Bob and Joan Hatrak have a new book coming out soon, “Not On My Watch.”


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